Thank you for gathering. My fellow Australians. My fellow members of the Australian Parliamentary Labor Party. Today I am announcing that I will be a candidate for the position of Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party. I am advised that the Chair of the Parliamentary Labor Party has been collecting a petition of members, about a third in number, which requested that a meeting of the Party be held to resolve the question of the Party’s leadership. Of course, Julia’s statement of half an hour or so ago removes the need for such a petition. The truth is, many, many MP’s have requested me for a long, long time to contest the leadership of the Party because of the parlour circumstances we now face. And perhaps less politely, various Ministers have been free and frank in their public advice to me as to the desirability to contest the leadership in recent days. For the nation’s sake, I believe it’s time for this matter to be resolved. The second and more important reason for contesting the leadership is the tens and thousands of ordinary Australians, members of the Australian public who have been asking me to do this for a very long time. And it’s your voices, the voices of the Australian people; it’s those voices that have had a huge effect on me. More so than the voices I happen to hear around the corridors of this building. What literally thousands of Australians have said to me over the last year or so is that they are genuinely fearful of what Mr Abbott could do to them if he’s elected, not only elected with a massive majority, including a majority in the Senate, which he is currently on track to do.
Last time Mr Abbotts party had absolute power, they brought in work choices. People are afraid, they are very afraid, that they will try to do it again. Under a different name of course, but no one forgets work choices. Australian families are afraid of what Mr Abbott could do to penalty rates and overtime. What could happen to their jobs, what it could do to pensions.
And what i could do to the environment. And the truth is if we are all being perfectly honest about it right now is that we are on course for a catastrophic defeat, unless there is change. And so today i am saying to you the people of Australia, I’m seeking to respond to your call That I’ve heard from so many of you to do what i can to prevent Mr Abbott from becoming prime minister. There is a third reason for contesting the leadership as well. I believe that all Australians whatever their politics want a real choice at this election. A real choice. At present if you talk to them long and hard, they don’t feel as if they’ve got one. And they are frustrated that we are denying them one. They are angry that we are leaving them with little choice at all other than to vote for Mr Abbott. Australian want a real policy debate on our vision for the countries future and Mr Abbotts vision for the future of our economy and jobs, on national security, on education, on health, on climate change and how we would make these competing visions work. This has now become urgent for the future of the economy in particular. I believe that what the country needs now is strong, proven, national, economic leadership to deal with a formidable new challenge Australia now faces with the end of the decade long china resources boom and its impact on Australian jobs and living standards into the future.
Given that our economic relationship with China alone now accounts for nearly 10% of the total size of our economy. This is a massive new challenge.
Diversification and productivity are no longer important for Australia, they are essential for Australia, if we are to protect our jobs and maintain our living standards.
Mr Abbott’s alternative economic policy is to copy the British conservatives – launch a national slash and burn, austerity drive and drive the economy into recession as happened in Britain. A double dip and almost a triple dip recession in the United Kingdom.
I therefore believe, with all my heart that I owe it to my country to offer the Australian people a viable alternative, for them to choose the future they want for themselves. Their jobs and their families - because these big economic questions will affect us all and sooner than we think.
It is time for proven national economic leadership.
These are the three core reasons why I have changed my position on the leadership. The request that I have received from my colleagues, my belief that the Australian people deserve a competitive choice at the next election and my fear that if we don’t offer it Mr Abbott will win by the biggest landslide since Federation. Unleash an assault on the people who rely upon us the Australian Labor Party and those of us in the Australian Labor government to protect them.
I do not seek to fudge the fact that I have changed my position, I’ve simply given you the reasons today that I have done so.
I accept full responsibility for my previous statements on the leadership and I’ll leave it to you , the good people of Australia to judge whether I have made the right call.
If I win this ballot, every effort I have in my being will be dedicated to uniting the Australian Labor Party. No retributions, no pay backs, none of that stuff. It’s pointless, it’s old politics.
The values which drive our movement are those things which should unite us. For those ministerial colleagues and friends who choose to serve and who want to serve, my general principle will be to embrace them in serving. For those who believe they cannot serve, I wish them well, thank them for their service and welcome the opportunity to renew the government. If I lose, of course, I would announce that I would not contest the next election, and I thank Julia for making the same commitment.
Friends, my fellow Australians, I love this country of ours and I’m doing what I honestly believe to be in the best interest of Australia. And to my friends in the media, you’ve heard me say this a million times, I have an hour and 40 minutes to speak to a number of friends in the Parliamentary Labor Party about what will happen here in this room at 7pm, so I’ve gotta zip, thank you.